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BoardGameGeek» Forums » Gaming Related » General Gaming

Subject: The nastier side of US railroading rss

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Steve S
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So I'm one of those people that for some unexplained reason really digs historic trains, and nearly any game with a train theme is likely to get my attention.

And although I haven't dug very deep into railroading history yet (though it's on the "to do" list) from what I gather the business of expanding the railroads in early US history wasn't always... nice.

I keep wondering if any train games have touched on that aspect of railroad history... shady dealings, bribes, corporate espianage, etc etc?

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Jeff Wood
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1830: Railways & Robber Barons, 'nuf said.
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Jeff Saxton
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Shadoglare wrote:
So I'm one of those people that for some unexplained reason really digs historic trains, and nearly any game with a train theme is likely to get my attention.

And although I haven't dug very deep into railroading history yet (though it's on the "to do" list) from what I gather the business of expanding the railroads in early US history wasn't always... nice.

I keep wondering if any train games have touched on that aspect of railroad history... shady dealings, bribes, corporate espianage, etc etc?


Being an amateur rail historian (nearly 3000 books in the library now), I can say that yes, early railroads were cut-throat in both their exploitation of other railroads, and of the populace that would use them.

Actual gun battles occurred multiple times as companies vied for the choicest route or location, armed gangs would tear up competitor's rails or stop them from building across a pre-existing railroad, and the level of stock manipulations make the financial crisis of 2008 seem tame. Multiple market crashes were caused by railroad stock failures ...

The Denver & Rio Grande physically fought the Santa Fe for access to the Arkansas River valley west of Canon City Colorado, the D& RG won. Same firms fought for Raton Pass, NM, Santa Fe won there. SP and Santa Fe fought in southern California, north of the Bay Area, and at one time Oregon was fought over.
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Based upon my poor understanding of history, science, and ethics...
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Lords of the Sierra Madre might have some of the aspects you reference.

Set in Northern Mexico and the US southwest the game involves control of bandits, control of state and federal police forces, foment strikes, break strikes, even the opportunity to become a governor. Players establish and control businesses such as RR, mines, and such.
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Jeff Rietveld
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They aren't going to get into the shady dealings and espionage, but almost any 18xx is going to hit the nasty side of competition heavily.
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Michael Debije
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Koldfoot wrote:
Lords of the Sierra Madre might have some of the aspects you reference.

Set in Northern Mexico and the US southwest the game involves control of bandits, control of state and federal police forces, foment strikes, break strikes, even the opportunity to become a governor. Players establish and control businesses such as RR, mines, and such.


Wow, nice one! That hadn't come to mind, but it would hit a lot of the OP's points perfectly. Great game.
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Rex Stites
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mi_de wrote:
Koldfoot wrote:
Lords of the Sierra Madre might have some of the aspects you reference.

Set in Northern Mexico and the US southwest the game involves control of bandits, control of state and federal police forces, foment strikes, break strikes, even the opportunity to become a governor. Players establish and control businesses such as RR, mines, and such.


Wow, nice one! That hadn't come to mind, but it would hit a lot of the OP's points perfectly. Great game.


Pax Porfiriana by the same designer on the same subject might be easier to find (and get played).
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Rex Stites
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JRietveld wrote:
They aren't going to get into the shady dealings and espionage, but almost any 18xx is going to hit the nasty side of competition heavily.


There can be some pretty shady dealings. Not between players per se, but between RRs with a common president. It's pretty common to buy a train with one company and then sell it to another one you control for a pittance. In other situations, you can do the opposite--sell a train that is about to be obsolete to another company for a large amount (transferring capital to where it can be better/more profitably used). All of these are done to leverage your personal position at the expense of the best interests of a railroad. If conducted in real life, all would be pretty shady.

There's also the way the games typically handle private companies. Players can sell privates to a company for .5x to 2x (typically) face value. This is typically used to pull capital out of a company and put it back into your personal pockets.
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Barry Harvey
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You're making it sound like it could be the theme for a COIN game.
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Steve S
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Cinnibar wrote:


No need to recruit, I'm already an 18xx player

And yeah the games can be cutthroat but not in the ways I was thinking...
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Jeff Saxton
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rstites25 wrote:
There can be some pretty shady dealings. Not between players per se, but between RRs with a common president.


As an example from the real world, the Goulds controlled the Missouri Pacific, and used income from that railroad to acquire the Denver & Rio Grande, thus eventually bankrupting the MoPac. They then raided the D&RG accounts to use that money to build the Western Pacific, bankrupting the D&RG in the process.
 
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J C Lawrence
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The Erie War.
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Martin Bell
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Mack_me_Bucko wrote:
Shadoglare wrote:
So I'm one of those people that for some unexplained reason really digs historic trains, and nearly any game with a train theme is likely to get my attention.

And although I haven't dug very deep into railroading history yet (though it's on the "to do" list) from what I gather the business of expanding the railroads in early US history wasn't always... nice.

I keep wondering if any train games have touched on that aspect of railroad history... shady dealings, bribes, corporate espianage, etc etc?


Being an amateur rail historian (nearly 3000 books in the library now), I can say that yes, early railroads were cut-throat in both their exploitation of other railroads, and of the populace that would use them.

Actual gun battles occurred multiple times as companies vied for the choicest route or location, armed gangs would tear up competitor's rails or stop them from building across a pre-existing railroad, and the level of stock manipulations make the financial crisis of 2008 seem tame. Multiple market crashes were caused by railroad stock failures ...

The Denver & Rio Grande physically fought the Santa Fe for access to the Arkansas River valley west of Canon City Colorado, the D& RG won. Same firms fought for Raton Pass, NM, Santa Fe won there. SP and Santa Fe fought in southern California, north of the Bay Area, and at one time Oregon was fought over.


Oh do go on...
 
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Jeff Saxton
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mabell_yah wrote:
Oh do go on...


What sorts of information are you looking for, or what geographic area, perhaps?
 
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J C Lawrence
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Its also worth noting that the shady characters from the Erie War were the same shady characters in the raping of the D&RG. In fact, more broadly, the number of principle characters in any given tumult is fairly small and comparable to the number of players we have in our games.
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Jeff Saxton
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clearclaw wrote:
Its also worth noting that the shady characters from the Erie War were the same shady characters in the raping of the D&RG. In fact, more broadly, the number of principle characters in any given tumult is fairly small and comparable to the number of players we have in our games.


It spanned generations too. The 'Erie War' was the elder Gould, the D&RG/Western Pacific thing was the son.

General William Jackson Palmer, head of the fledgling D&RG, wanted to build from Denver to Mexico City. When they lost Raton Pass to the Santa Fe, they then turned their aim towards western Colorado with a three pronged expansion. West over Marshall Pass through Gunnison and eventually west to Salt Lake City, north to Leadville, and southwest through Alamosa to the San Juans. [If you have been on the Blue Mesa Reservoir near Gunnison, underneath all that water was once the transcontinental railroad line of the D&RG]

Through stock manipulations, Palmer lost the Colorado portion of the D&RG, but he retained the Utah portions, which then became the Rio Grande Western. For a period of time, the two railroads wouldn't exchange cars, so all freight and passengers had to be transhipped at the Utah/Colorado border near Mack. Much later, after the Gould debacle, when the (by then) recombined D&RG came out of bankruptcy, it was renamed the D&RGW -- which is now part of the Union Pacific.

You can still ride several segments of the original D&RG from Chama NM to Antonito CO; Durango to Silverton CO, and through the Royal Gorge.
 
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J C Lawrence
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Aye. Vanderbilt wasn't a perfectly above the boards straight shooter, but compared to Gould and Fish he was a veritable saint.
 
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I expect stories could be found of shady dealings around many shipping ports where land could be monopolized or controlled; it happened here on the Central California Coast (e.g. the Ocean Shore Railroad's attempt to reach Santa Cruz).

I think Stephensons Rocket, if played skillfully, delivers many of these situations, and could be redesigned into a much longer game of negotiating and Real Estate speculating if someone wanted.
 
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Rick Holzgrafe
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As a designer of a couple of railroad-game expansions (I won't list them, to avoid hijacking this thread with self-promotion), I did some research into this matter. I very much wanted to include material of this nature in the designs. But I was limited by the "granularity" of the base game's design. The game simply didn't allow for that level of detail.

I was able to include some of the gross economics: for example, I included bonus rewards for investing in strategic cities, tied to the names of the barons who actually promoted that investment. But that was about it, and a lot of fascinating history had to be left out.

In general, games—even those that are deliberate simulations of historical events—are abstractions and simplifications of reality. Often this means that historical detail, even significant events and influences, must be sacrificed in the name of streamlined and enjoyable gameplay.

But it doesn't always have to mean that. I'm glad to see this thread explore the exceptions.
 
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J C Lawrence
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It has been a long time and I don't remember the names, but I do recall of reading of a case in which a new railroad started with great fanfare and expectations and proceeded to lay track and build stations and so forth and had secured the station location and easement rights for the key station on the route...but had not bought all the rights etc for the entire path through the town. A competitor bought up all the key properties for cash in patchwork-style, leaving the licensed station location unreachable except by an extra-ordinarily expensive loop around town over bad terrain etc, waited for the new company to bankrupt, bought the assets for a song, and suddenly had nice direct track making the connections to the key markets and made hay.
 
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J C Lawrence
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rholzgrafe wrote:
In general, games—even those that are deliberate simulations of historical events—are abstractions and simplifications of reality. Often this means that historical detail, even significant events and influences, must be sacrificed in the name of streamlined and enjoyable gameplay.


To me the concern isn't that history is recreated, or that the signal shape and trajectory of history repeats, but that the key types of things that happened historically can also happen (not will happen, but can happen) in the game, if not at the same places and with the same interests, at least somewhere in the game for similar background causes and interests and using not entirely dissimilar methods.
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Jeff Saxton
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clearclaw wrote:
A competitor bought up all the key properties for cash in patchwork-style, leaving the licensed station location unreachable except by an extra-ordinarily expensive loop around town over bad terrain etc, waited for the new company to bankrupt, bought the assets for a song, and suddenly had nice direct track making the connections to the key markets and made hay.


The aforementioned Denver & Rio Grande had a nasty habit of building into a region, and bypassing the town you'd expect them to go to, in order to plat and develop their own town instead. Today, Durango, Colorado exists because they chose to bypass Animas City.

Chicanery and railroads went hand-in-hand for decades.

Financial manipulations and kickbacks for favored shippers, watering of stocks, insider trading, and just bad sportsmanship at times.
 
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